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REVERE

Casino jobs are key lure, mayor says

Mayor Dan Rizzo says an agreement over proposed Suffolk Downs casino would boost Revere economy significantly,

A 15-year agreement between Revere city officials and the developers of a proposed $1 billion casino at Suffolk Downs racetrack includes financial payments and job opportunities that could have widespread economic impact on the city, Mayor Dan Rizzo said.

“I would consider it transformational,” Rizzo said in an interview Wednesday after an address by Stephen Crosby, chairman of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission, to the Revere Chamber of Commerce. “I really do believe the jobs alone could cut our unemployment rate in half.”

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Revere’s unemployment rate for May was 7.5 percent, compared with the statewide rate of 6.8 percent, according to the most recent local figures available from the state Department of Labor and Workforce Development.

Rizzo declined to disclose financial details of the agreement, which still must be signed by the mayor and go before the city’s voters this fall. “I will say it’s going to be very, very good financially for the city,” he said.

Meanwhile, Suffolk was also negotiating last week with the city of Boston on a much bigger deal. Sources reported signs of a breakthrough in talks between Suffolk Downs and Mayor Thomas M. Menino’s administration on what the sources described as the state’s richest casino host-community agreement to date.

In Revere, Rizzo said public safety and traffic control are addressed in the agreement. Employment preferences for local residents and partnerships with local businesses are also included, he added.

“We tried to address all of the impacts and issues raised as we went across the city asking people what their concerns were,” the mayor said. “We are only going to get one crack at it . . . so we wanted to make sure we had it right.”

The state’s gambling law requires casino developers to negotiate a agreement with the host community, to provide financial benefits and to mitigate any problems that might arise, as part of the license application process. Since Suffolk Downs straddles the Revere-East Boston line, agreements must be reached with both cities.

About a quarter of the 161-acre Suffolk Downs facility lies in Revere, including part of the horse track, parking lots, and a 25-acre barn area.

Suffolk Downs is hoping to conclude negotiations with Boston within a few weeks, said Chip Tuttle, the racetrack’s chief operating officer.

“We’ve made substantial progress with our host community agreements in the last several weeks,” said Tuttle, who also attended Wednesday’s chamber meeting. “We feel really good about where we are. We’re hopeful that we’ll have the HCA process wrapped up by the end of this month.”

Rizzo said Revere will sign its host agreement once negotiations conclude with Boston. “It doesn’t do us any good to sign off while Boston is still negotiating,” he said.

Suffolk Downs has partnered with Caesar’s Entertainment of Las Vegas to propose a development that would include a luxury hotel with 300 to 450 rooms, upscale shops, restaurants, a spa, and a 24-hour casino.

The proposal also includes $40 million in traffic improvements for routes 1A and 16, the main access roads to the site.

The group is one of three developers that have applied to the Gaming Commission for the one resort casino license available for Greater Boston under the 2011 law that expands gambling in the state.

In Everett, Wynn Resorts of Las Vegas has proposed a $1.2 billion facility for a former Monsanto chemical factory on the Mystic River, and Foxwoods Massachusetts has proposed a $1 billion casino complex for vacant land off Interstate 495 in Milford.

“We will make our decision in April of next year,” Crosby said in his talk to the Revere chamber.

Once a community host agreement is negotiated, a local referendum must be held to allow voters to decide whether to have a casino in their community.

Everett voters on June 22 overwhelmingly approved the Wynn host community agreement, which includes tens of millions of dollars in payments and revenues, along with traffic improvements and job hiring preferences.

The state commission may award up to three licenses across the state, but only one is available in Greater Boston. Each license will be awarded on the strength of the proposal, Crosby said

“The public and the participants in the process need to know that the only issue that would bear on our decisions is the merit of the proposals, as best we can understand them. If anybody believes there is another criteria out there, it totally destroys the process,” he said.

Crosby said proposals will be evaluated on five criteria: financial investment, mitigation plans, location and building design, economic development, and overall impact.

Crosby called the final criteria — overall impact — the “wow factor.”

He told the gathering, “We’ll be asking, ‘How are you going to do something that really distinguishes the casino industry in Massachusetts? What is the one thing you bring to the table that is bigger and better than we might see someplace else?’  ’’

In Revere, where Suffolk Downs has operated for 78 years, business leaders hope the commission considers the site’s historic economic role in a small city best known for its crescent-shaped beach.

“Until probably the 1960s, Revere Beach was known as the playground of New England,” said Bob Upton, the chamber’s president, who runs the website www.reverebeach.com.

“I think it’s very important for you to realize that if Suffolk Downs is granted that license, it’s going to be such a stimulus for us. . . Many of us look at this as a real good potential for business development.”

Mark Arsenault of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Kathy McCabe can be reached at KMcCabe@globe.com.
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